Terry Firma, though born and Journalism-school-educated in Europe, has lived in the U.S. for the past 20-odd years. Stateside, his feature articles have been published in the New York Times, Reason, Rolling Stone, Playboy, and Wired. Terry was the founder and Main Mischief Maker of Moral Compass, a now-dormant site that pokes fun at the delusional claim by people of faith that a belief in God equips them with superior moral standards. He was the Editor-in-Chief of two Manhattan-based magazines until he decided to give up commercial publishing for professional photography... with a lot of blogging on the side. These days, he lives in an old seaside farmhouse in Maine with his wife, three kids, and two big dogs.
What do Orthodox Jews in Brooklyn and evangelical Dutch Christians have in common? Both group respects their god so much, they won’t do a thing when their kids get — and spread — the measles, and both communities are fighting an outbreak right now. In the United States, Another infectious disease is running through the Orthodox Jewish community in Brooklyn. More than 50 children have developed measles this spring — the third or fourth measles problem in the community in the last six years, and following closely on the heels of a mumps outbreak in 2009–10 that affected more than 3,000 people… [T]he cause is quite simple. Kids aren’t getting vaccinated. And this, from the Netherlands [article in Dutch]: “God knows what’s good for your child. Vaccination is an expression of one’s lack of trust in Him,” says a Christian mom. … In the Dutch Bible Belt, the vaccination rate is far below the national average. That makes an outbreak in the region a particularly large risk. Frequently, measles, mumps, and whooping cough emerge and spread at great speed. If that happens, then everyone is at risk, believers and non-believers alike — at least those who haven’t been vaccinated, and those whose vaccine-related immunity has lessened over time. [Click headline for more…] Read more
Four months ago, I began looking for two full-time employees to help my publishing business with research and sales. Before I interviewed anyone, I wrote an exhaustive job description for both positions, and e-mailed it to each viable candidate. After I’d found the right duo, the contracts were signed, and I was looking forward to many pleasant office interactions — and higher revenues! But trouble soon started when my first hire, Miriam, informed me that she is Amish, and is extremely uncomfortable around computers, iPads, cell phones, routers, and anything to do with the Internet. For religious reasons, she declined to work with technology, but offered to do research using the newspapers and books in my local library, which is still powered by an old-fashioned card catalog. The other newcomer on my staff also threw me for a loop. Though Avram is a sales rep who was expected to frequently travel to book fairs and literary festivals, his Jewish faith came first. On his first Monday, Avram told me he won’t work or even fly on the Sabbath. As some of these crucial industry events take place on weekends, my company’s bottom line would be suffering. Though I liked Avram and Miriam, I told them after a few weeks that it wasn’t going to work out. I gave them each a pink slip and a pretty generous check, and wished them the best. Now I’m being sued by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) for “violating the religious rights” of my ex-employees. What do you think? Fair? [Click headline for more…] Read more
If you happen to find yourself in Woking, Surrey, a large British town of some 100,000 people, you might be entitled to free Sunday parking in local municipal garages. But there’s a catch: the offer is valid only if you’re religious. In that case, a local church or mosque will validate your parking stub. So count your blessings… and your savings! Woking subsidizes “religious” parking to the tune of £41,000 ($64,000) a year. Ray Morgan, Woking council’s chief executive, said people shouldn’t have to “pay to pray”: “We take a view that those people who worship… have a special role in our society,” he said. “The way austerity is going in our society, faith groups might be the only people left standing who are doing any of the lower level social care.” The view seems to be that being a worshipper “encourages one to participate in society.” [Click headline for more…] Read more
Who would Jesus fire? Catholic Holy Trinity School in El Cajon, California told second-grade teacher Carie Charlesworth she is out of a job. Charlesworth’s infraction? Funny story: There isn’t one. She is a victim of a stalker who happens to be her ex-husband. The school has decided that Charlesworth is too unsafe to be allowed back in school, not because of anything she did, but because of the behavior of her former spouse. Back in January, the man, who has a history of inflicting domestic abuse, showed up in the school’s parking lot and, in a likely overreaction, put the school into lockdown mode. Charlesworth, who is just now coming forward, was put on indefinite leave for three months, then fired. [Click headline for more…] Read more
Florida resident Karen Lee-Duffell has two young kids, and a wife with whom she’s been together for 12 years. The four of them love the Jacksonville Hands-On Children’s Museum. Well, make that loved. You see, when Lee-Duffell wanted to renew her family membership recently, museum staff unexpectedly balked when she put a woman’s name on the form in the section marked “dad.” “They noticed the female name in the ‘dad’ space and told me that I would need to pay extra to add her as a ‘substitution’ because she is not a dad,” Lee-Duffell said. “I was confused for a second, but quickly realized what was going on. It sends a clear message that they are not interested in fairness to certain kinds of families. I don’t think that’s right, no matter what the proprietors’ personal beliefs are.” Lee-Duffell claims that the museum’s refusal to qualify her partner for inclusion in the family rate “is no different than charging someone extra for their T-shirt because they are meat eaters and the store owner is vegetarian.” [Click headline for more…] Read more